Monday, August 04, 2014

Perfecting The Gin & Tonic



What do you think of when asked to name the best, most refreshing summertime cocktail?  Many people will answer the gin ant tonic.  Why not?  It’s simple to make, tastes great, and is quite the pick-me-up on those sultry summer nights.  But what ingredients should you use?  Well, the tonic water can be purchased at almost any supermarket, but a number of folks might prefer getting something more specialized at a gourmet shop.  The key ingredient to this drink, of course, is the gin – after all, it’s called the gin and tonic, not the tonic and gin.  The gin comes first, so it’s the most important part of the mix. 

Recently, I attended a tasting at Union Square Wines & Spirits called “The G&T Invitational”, where attendees had an opportunity to sample a variety of gins – both on their own and mixed with tonic water.  As varied as the gins were, they each yielded their own unique taste when combined with whichever tonic was used; I encourage you to purchase a few of these and conduct your own tasting to see which one you prefer and which one you believe makes the perfect gin and tonic cocktail. 






The first one I tried was Caorunn Small Batch Scottish Gin; it contains five botanicals from The Highlands region of Scotland, which is also where its distillery is located – specifically, The Balmenach Distillery in Speyside).  Although its primary production is its Scotch, their Master Distiller was also quite passionate about gin and that’s how Caorunn came to be made there.  On its own, the gin is pleasantly aromatic with a very satisfying taste.  Mixed with tonic water, add a couple of thinly-sliced pieces of apple to garnish and the result is a rather refreshing cocktail. 


Next, I visited the table where the production manager from The New York Distilling Company was stationed.  The New York Distilling Company makes a Navy Strength Gin (a whopping 114 proof!) called Perry’s Tot.  Since the liquor is so strong, they recommend that when you use it in a cocktail, consider a smaller portion – instead of say 2 ounces, try only an ounce and a half, for example.  In addition to, of course, juniper, other botanicals include lemon, orange and grapefruit; they also add spices such as cinnamon, coriander and Star Anise. 

Interestingly, New York State honey is yet another ingredient, but the sugar is removed.  I was informed that they do not derive the higher proof by distilling the gin less than normal; instead, they control the amount of alcohol by a judicious use of purified water in their manufacturing process – in other words, the higher the proof of the gin, the less water is used. 



Last, I had an Old Tom gin from Spring 44.  Based out of Colorado, this company produces a very unusual type of Old Tom gin in that it’s not quite as sweet as you might expect due to the fact that there isn’t quite as much a presence of sugar, which is typically what’s added to the spirit to qualify it as an Old Tom.  Instead, its sweetness comes from the agave nectar that has been included; this almost makes it a “healthy” spirit as the sweetness from the agave nectar has a lower glycemic index, which means that your blood sugar won’t spike (and also results in fewer calories). 



In addition to the smoky taste given to it by the inclusion of the agave nectar, it also has something of a nutty-woody flavor; it attributes the nuttiness to the fact that toasted nutmeg is one ingredient and the woodiness comes from the spirit being aged for three months in chardonnay barrels.   




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